|Colorado Trail riding…|
I was having dinner with a group of friends about a month ago when one of the girls casually brought up that she wanted to do a mountain bike race this year. I pounced on her having found out about a week earlier that my teammate for the Firecracker 50 last year wouldn’t be able to race this year and was still slightly bummed at having to find a new teammate. “The Firecracker 50 is a great race, it’s so much fun! You’ll only have to do 25 miles and I’ll do the other 25, c’mon you’ve run 30 miles- you’ll be fine!” Fortunately her boyfriend got on board with this plan and he found a teammate too.
I was a little unsure the morning of Firecracker how my legs were going to react for the day. Two days before I had spend 3 hours on the Colorado Trail (completely worth it!) after an hour of intervals up at Leadville and the day before did a 2 hour ride with some friends, while I wasn’t exactly pushing the pace I wasn’t exactly sitting around in compression socks either. I had to keep reminding myself that it was training and everything counts towards Leadville whether or not my legs are on.
The race started with Allison going first, I rode the parade with her and Dave (whose partner was also going first). I think what really sold her on the race was getting
|Ready to Race!|
to be in the parade and I hoped that her enthusiasm would keep throughout the race. After leading her out, Dave and I took off for the park where the exchange zone and finish area was. There Sully (because he’s the best) washed my bike, because a clean bike is a happy bike and we waited.
The next few hours were a bit agonizing, last year Sully had been on course so I had an idea of when I would see my teammate, this year was a little harder to guesstimate. I kept drinking and eating just to be ready–I even got dress after the pros got done with their first lap because chamois time is training time. I still get nervous for shorter races, probably more so than longer ones because they still seem so foreign to me so sitting around waiting was not helping the butterflies in my stomach. I was sitting watching people come down the front side of the mountain, looking for a blue camelbak when I heard “Ginsbach/Jasinski team is through!” “Oh Crap! That’s me!!” I now know how how Superman felt every time he had to do a quick change in the phone booth- I stripped off my sweat shirt, jumped up from my chair and followed Sully (who had grabbed my bike) at a jog to the transition area. I checked in with Allison to see how it was and how she felt, she said she had fun, number plate was switched and I was on my way.
The first 7 miles is a steady grade up Boreas pass, I was familiar with it from last year and having
|Easing into this camping thing|
spent a night camping up where the road feeds into the trail. I kept thinking it was going to turn really steep but it maintained a nice steady railroad grade. I kept trying to average between 9-11 mph while riding conservatively enough to make it to the first aid station and top off my fuel levels. I was also worried my legs were going to go out in the first few miles but figured I would keep pushing until they did.
This section is why I will never do the 50, or at least have reservations before signing up. Beginning the second lap fresh every person I seem to pass was a hollow shell who seemed so defeated by having to being the process again. Most were beyond gone a “good job” or “nice work” and I wished I had more that I could have offered to get them up the hill.
I reached the first aid station grabbed a bottle and some chews because it had been a while since I had eaten anything and started on the trail. This course is so much fun, and with the rain that week had brought the dirt was especially good. I began descending and would slowly pick people off always trying to make sure not to encroach on them and let me know that whenever a good spot was available I would go around. I kept riding and soon found myself at the bottom of Little French, which is synonymous with this race. It’s a loose, two-track, baby head rock climb that I only ever remember being about 50 yards but as I approached it this year I realized it actually begins much farther down. I kept turning the pedals over, reminding myself how much I hate hike-a-biking and those unfortunate souls around me motivated me to keep riding. I got my rear wheel on a rear rock and spun out which made me immediately hop off, take 2 steps and hop back on to keep going. The last 50 yards (the part I remember from last year) I spun my rear wheel out on another rock and hopped off, realizing it was a little too steep and a little too loose to get a good start I power walked the rest of the way thinking this is also great training for Leadville.
The next section is super fast and super smooth, and I soon found myself at the second aid station and pushing towards the last one. There is so much good single track in this race that I was soaking it all up, and was into the last aid station before I knew it. Right after the aid station I went to pass a guy, there was plenty of room and right before making my move he stood up and took off. At first I thought maybe he had heard me coming and wanted to stay in front of me and then I realized this guy is a really good climber. I stuck on his wheel, and we moved up through more people. I began to
|Didn’t take the “A” line on Race day|
recognize areas that we had rode the day before and when we were at a log I knew we were close. I stayed on the guy’s wheel and let him pull me up into the bike park. This is the best part of the course, it’s almost 2 miles of just full on descent with jumps, log features, and berms, so much fun! I followed the guy through one of the switch backs and the top when he asked if I wanted to go around, I hesitated, this guy had just pulled me around for 4 miles and he was going to let me go first on this descent?!? But then I took him up on his offer, telling him that if he needed to get by to let me know. I rallied down that descent, trying to stay focus enough on what I was doing and not get too far ahead of myself. I came into the finish and the guy who let me go in front wasn’t far behind, I thanked him for pulling me the last 4 miles and letting me go first.
Doing the team event might be one of my favorite races of the year. It seems that the race director does everything in his power to make sure that everyone has a great time out there- fully stocked aid stations (they give you bottle hand ups so you don’t even need to stop), sends out emails before with all the details and even instructing people on how to pass and get passed. And the course is incredible (almost worth signing up for the full to do it twice!) every time you get close to being mental broken down over a climb you are rewarded with a tasty, well-earned descent.
Here are the numbers:
Distance: 25.1 miles
Average power: 152
Average HR: 157
2 Bottles (1 Skratch)
1 bag of HoneyStinger Chews
This weekend I’m doing an 83 mile mountain bike race in the Black Hills. I wasn’t too concerned until I started looking at the finishing times from last year, women were from 9-16 hours and the fastest men were around 8 hours. Could end up being a much longer day in the saddle (with more snake sightings) than I was thinking…